Billie Eilish was unquestionably the artist of the night at the Grammys on Sunday, becoming the first female solo artist to sweep the Big Four awards: Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Album of the Year and Best New Artist.
And though rap and hip hop artists cleaned up well at the ceremony, the 62nd Grammy Awards were not without controversy—from ousted Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan’s bombshell allegations against her former employer, to Diddy and Tyler, the Creator’s vocal dissatisfaction with the prestigious awards show.
Here’s a quick rundown of rap at the 2020 Grammys:
Diddy slams the Recording Academy—while being honored at a pre-Grammys gala
The 62nd Grammy Awards got off to a rocky start when the Recording Academy ousted former CEO Deborah Dugan hardly ten days before the ceremony. Days afterwards, she filed a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged sexual misconduct and corruption within the organization.
The rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs was another prominent figure who criticised the Recording Academy this year—while he was being honored at a pre-Grammys gala, at that. In the last minutes of his speech after collecting the Industry Icon Award, Diddy called for the Grammys to give hip hop its due respect, and demanded change: “I’m officially starting the clock. You’ve got 365 days to get this shit together. We need the artists to take back control. We need transparency. We need diversity.”
Watch this part of Diddy’s speech below:
Tyler, the Creator fulfils an 11-year-old promise to himself and wins his first Grammy
“My goal in life is a Grammy, hopefully mom’ll attend the ceremony with all my homies,” Tyler, the Creator rapped on “Bastard” in 2009. It took more than a decade, but the Odd Future visionary’s prediction came true this year, as Tyler snagged Best Rap Album for 2019’s IGOR, inviting his mom up onstage to accept the award with him.
But it’ll take more than a Grammy award to change Tyler, one of pop culture’s most idiosyncratic and outspoken artists. In the press room, he explained why he was “half and half” on his win: “On the one side I am very grateful that what I made can be acknowledged in a world like this… but it sucks that whenever we, and I mean guys that look like me, do anything that’s genre-bending or anything, they always put it in a rap or urban category.”
“And I don’t like that ‘urban’ word,” Tyler said. “It’s just a politically correct way to say the n-word, to me. So when I hear that, I’m just like, why can’t we just be in pop? So I felt like—half of me feels like the rap nomination was a backhanded compliment.”
— ??? ?????? (@itsOddFuture) January 27, 2020
And in his incendiary Grammys performance, Tyler made sure to emphasize IGOR’s multitudes, delivering aggressive raps on “New Magic Wand” but also bringing out R&B luminaries Charlie Wilson and Boyz II Men out for gorgeous vocal harmonies on “Earfquake.” Watch his performance below:
Lil Nas X obliterates genre in “Old Town Road” remixes performance
Lil Nas X, whose entire career is premised on the irrelevance of genre, circled through the various remixes of his hit song “Old Town Road” in his outstanding performance. On a rotating, multi-sectioned set, he performed the track first with K-pop titans BTS, joined Mason Ramsey and a banjo-strumming Diplo, and finally stood side by side with Billy Ray Cyrus. It was a spectacle befitting the song, which clinched two awards: Best Pop Duo / Group Performance and Best Music Video.
And after making that vivid, irresistibly catchy statement, Nas X segued neatly into another full-circle moment: Connecting with the legendary rapper and his own namesake Nas for a brand-new, live remix of “Rodeo.” Watch it below:
Aerosmith perform with Run-DMC
Speaking of destroying genre boundaries: Aerosmith and Run-DMC reunited at the Grammys to perform their rap rock-spawning scorcher, “Walk This Way.” 2020 marks nearly 35 years (!) since the Queens hip hop group decided to cover the Aerosmith track, and their performance on the Grammys stage proved the crossover hit still goes hard after all these years—and that genre lines were made to be crossed.
Check out a snippet of Aerosmith and Run-DMC’s performance below:
— Bippity Boppity (@Bobby84837810) January 27, 2020
The Grammys remember the late Nipsey Hussle
At the 2020 Grammys, Nipsey Hussle was awarded his first Grammy, posthumously: “Racks in the Middle,” the last song the California rapper released before he was shot dead in March 2019, won Best Rap Performance.
Hussle was remembered in a star-studded performance that kicked off with Meek Mill, who debuted “Letter to Nipsey” with featured artist Roddy Ricch. DJ Khaled then introduced John Legend, YG and gospel artist Kirk Franklin and a troupe of white-clad dancers for “Higher,” which also won a gong for Best Rap/Sung Performance.
The moving spectacle then concluded with projected photographs of Hussle and basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who had died earlier that day in a tragic helicopter accident that also took the lives of eight other people, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
Watch the Grammys’ tribute to Nipsey Hussle below:
— Reese Waters (@reesewaters) January 27, 2020
Check out our roundup of pop at the 2020 Grammys here.